Photography has never been more popular. It is absolutely everywhere these days as virtually everyone has a camera! There are plenty of digital SLRs out there, as well as whole new families of advanced and mirrorless compacts. But the vast majority of the world’s cameras are in fact smart phone cameras. Point and shoot monsters have re-taken the world. Just when photography was going through an amazing resurgence thanks to digital photography, another side of technology has reared up and threatens to snatch it all away. I think it would be a good time to look at what the ubiquitous smartphone has done, and threatens to do to photography.
“Photography is an art and a craft. To get to the art, we go through the craft”. Anyone who has done even the most basic of photography studies understands this concept. But it’s not like this in the point and shoot world, of course. And point and shoot has long been the dominant form of photography. In the point and shoot world it’s all about composition and the moment, and to some of the more astute practitioners, the lighting. So in the hands of a decent photographer, it doesn’t really matter what camera is being used. Many options always exist.
But what is happening now, is that millions of people are not ever experiencing the other sides of photography. The selection of depth of field, the controlling of movement and time, the subtleties of exposure and white balance, the amazing combinations of sensor, glass, aperture and focal length that can produce images of stunning clarity and beautiful bokeh. Instead the very concept of photography is being once again reduced to composition and the moment. Even as the phone cameras become more sophisticated, the vast majority of users will simply use them in point and shoot mode, and that will be their lifelong experience of what photography is. How sad.
And what of quality? As one of my photographic mentors once impressed upon me, “quality needs a frame of reference”. And that frame of reference is swiftly disappearing from the world. Where once businesses would hire a professional photographer to take pictures for their campaigns, now real estate agents are getting their own staff using horrible little point and shoots to do the work. Larger businesses are using stock imagery for their branding, a generic, bland, stylized form of imagery that while has its place, is only a fraction of the story. And while imagery is everywhere on the Internet and television and beyond, the quality of that imagery is slipping. It’s now about speed, rather than quality. It’s now about getting that mobile phone shot into the newspapers before the story is last hour’s news…
These are strange times. We are seeing the same deterioration in so many areas of our life. Quality is being phased out for the benefit of speed and convenience. Just look at the awful stuff that masquerades as food in our monolithic supermarkets. Tomatoes without taste, bananas that don’t ripen… But don’t get me started. That’s a different story. With photography though, there is such depth and wonder to the intricacies of photography and it is a great shame for that to be reduced to simply pointing and shooting again.
But you can fight back! It just needs a little education. Once you KNOW how a camera works, and realise the amazing results you can get by steering the process, automatic cameras lose their appeal. Control and creativity blossom. Photos become more works of art than snapshots. It’s liberating, to say the least.
I would highly recommend you to come along to a beginner’s course. You will learn all you need to know to start taking photographs instead of snapshots…